Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan

Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan
Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan
Full Overview Of Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan

Inheritance tax (IHT) is a vital aspect of estate planning that can significantly impact the wealth transfer process. In the United Kingdom, the standard rate of inheritance tax is 40%, which applies to the portion of an estate exceeding the nil-rate band, currently set at £325,000. Effective inheritance tax planning is crucial for reducing the financial burden on beneficiaries. One sophisticated strategy that has gained popularity is the Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan. This summary will explore the intricacies of this plan, its benefits, implementation, and potential drawbacks.

Understanding Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is levied on the estate of a deceased individual before it is distributed to the beneficiaries. It encompasses all assets, including property, investments, and personal possessions. The primary aim of inheritance tax planning is to legally minimise the tax liability, ensuring a more substantial inheritance for the beneficiaries.

Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plans Explained

The Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan is an advanced estate planning tool designed to reduce the inheritance tax liability on an estate. It involves the use of life insurance policies in conjunction with trusts to provide liquidity for the payment of inheritance tax, thereby preserving the estate’s value for the beneficiaries.

Key Components

  1. Life Insurance Policy: The cornerstone of this plan is a life insurance policy taken out by the individual whose estate is subject to inheritance tax. This policy is specifically structured to cover the estimated inheritance tax liability.
  2. Trust Arrangement: The life insurance policy is placed into a trust. This ensures that the policy proceeds are not considered part of the estate upon death, thereby avoiding inheritance tax on the payout itself.
  3. Loan Agreement: The policyholder takes out a loan against the life insurance policy. The loan is then used to make a gift, typically to the beneficiaries or into another trust.

How It Works

The Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan operates through a series of strategic steps designed to leverage the benefits of life insurance and trust law:

  1. Taking Out the Life Insurance Policy: The policyholder takes out a whole-of-life insurance policy with a sum assured equivalent to the anticipated inheritance tax liability.
  2. Setting Up a Trust: The policy is then assigned to a trust. The most common type of trust used for this purpose is a discretionary trust, offering flexibility in the management and distribution of the trust assets.
  3. Loan Against the Policy: The policyholder borrows against the life insurance policy. This loan is typically structured to be interest-free or low-interest, repayable upon the policyholder’s death from the policy proceeds.
  4. Making a Gift: The loan amount is gifted to the beneficiaries or into another trust. This gift is potentially exempt from inheritance tax if the policyholder survives for seven years following the gift, under the UK’s seven-year rule.
  5. Repayment of the Loan: Upon the policyholder’s death, the life insurance policy pays out to the trust. The trust then uses the proceeds to repay the loan, effectively removing the inheritance tax liability from the estate.

Benefits of the Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan

  1. Tax Efficiency: The primary advantage of this plan is its ability to reduce the inheritance tax liability significantly. By placing the life insurance policy in a trust, the policy proceeds are not subject to inheritance tax.
  2. Liquidity for Tax Payment: One of the challenges with inheritance tax is that it must be paid before the estate can be distributed. The life insurance payout provides the necessary liquidity to cover the tax liability, ensuring the estate’s assets do not have to be sold to meet this obligation.
  3. Asset Protection: Placing assets in a trust can offer protection from creditors and potential legal claims. This ensures that the wealth is preserved for the intended beneficiaries.
  4. Flexibility: Discretionary trusts offer flexibility in terms of asset management and distribution. Trustees can make decisions based on the changing circumstances and needs of the beneficiaries.
  5. Control Over Assets: The use of trusts allows the policyholder to maintain a degree of control over how and when the beneficiaries receive their inheritance, which can be particularly beneficial in managing larger estates or when beneficiaries are minors.

Implementation Considerations

Implementing a Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan requires careful planning and professional advice. Several key considerations must be taken into account:

  1. Accurate Estimation of Tax Liability: It is crucial to estimate the future inheritance tax liability accurately to determine the appropriate sum assured for the life insurance policy. This involves a comprehensive assessment of the estate’s value and potential growth.
  2. Selection of Trust Structure: Choosing the right type of trust is essential. Discretionary trusts are commonly used due to their flexibility, but other trust structures might be more suitable depending on the specific circumstances.
  3. Loan Agreement Terms: The terms of the loan taken against the life insurance policy should be carefully structured. Interest-free or low-interest loans are typically preferred to maximise the financial benefit of the plan.
  4. Health and Insurability: The health and insurability of the policyholder are critical factors. Obtaining life insurance can be challenging or costly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and this must be considered during the planning process.
  5. Ongoing Management: Trusts require ongoing management and administration. Trustees must be appointed, and their duties and responsibilities must be clearly defined to ensure the trust operates effectively and in accordance with the policyholder’s wishes.

Potential Drawbacks

While the Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan offers numerous benefits, it is important to be aware of potential drawbacks:

  1. Complexity: This plan involves complex financial and legal arrangements. It requires a thorough understanding of life insurance, trust law, and tax regulations, making professional advice indispensable.
  2. Cost: Setting up and maintaining the plan can be costly. Life insurance premiums, trust administration fees, and professional advisory costs can add up, potentially reducing the overall financial benefit.
  3. Health Considerations: The plan’s effectiveness is contingent on the policyholder’s ability to obtain life insurance at a reasonable cost. Health issues can significantly impact insurability and premiums.
  4. Changes in Legislation: Tax laws and regulations are subject to change. Future changes in inheritance tax laws, trust regulations, or life insurance policies could affect the plan’s effectiveness.
  5. Loan Repayment: The loan against the life insurance policy must be repaid from the policy proceeds upon death. If the policy proceeds are insufficient to cover the loan, it could create financial complications for the estate.

Case Study: Illustrating the Plan

Consider the case of Mr. Smith, a wealthy individual with an estate valued at £2 million. He anticipates an inheritance tax liability of £670,000 (40% of £1,675,000, after the £325,000 nil-rate band). To mitigate this liability, Mr. Smith implements a Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan.

  1. Life Insurance Policy: Mr. Smith takes out a whole-of-life insurance policy with a sum assured of £670,000.
  2. Trust Setup: He assigns the policy to a discretionary trust.
  3. Loan Against Policy: Mr. Smith borrows £670,000 against the policy and gifts this amount into another trust for his beneficiaries.
  4. Upon Death: The life insurance policy pays out £670,000 to the trust. The trust repays the £670,000 loan, leaving the estate intact for distribution to the beneficiaries.


The Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan is a sophisticated and effective strategy for mitigating inheritance tax liability. By leveraging life insurance policies and trusts, it provides liquidity for tax payment, preserves the estate’s value, and offers flexibility and control over asset distribution. However, due to its complexity and potential costs, it is essential to seek professional advice and carefully consider all aspects of the plan. With proper implementation, this plan can significantly enhance the financial legacy left to the beneficiaries, ensuring that wealth is transferred efficiently and in accordance with the policyholder’s wishes.

Back-to-Back Inheritance Tax Plan FAQ'S

A back-to-back inheritance tax plan is a financial strategy that involves taking out a life insurance policy alongside an investment plan. The aim is to cover potential inheritance tax liabilities with the life insurance payout, while the investment plan grows to benefit the beneficiaries.

The individual invests in a life insurance policy held in trust, ensuring the payout is free from inheritance tax. Simultaneously, they invest in a separate savings or investment plan. Upon death, the insurance payout covers the inheritance tax, and the remaining investments can be passed to beneficiaries.

This plan is used to mitigate inheritance tax liabilities, ensuring that the estate’s value is preserved for the beneficiaries. It helps in managing large estates and provides liquidity to pay inheritance tax without selling off estate assets.

In the UK, life insurance premiums are not tax-deductible. However, the payout from a life insurance policy held in trust is typically exempt from inheritance tax.

Placing a life insurance policy in trust ensures that the payout does not form part of the deceased’s estate, thus avoiding inheritance tax and probate delays. It also allows the policyholder to specify beneficiaries directly.

While anyone can theoretically set up such a plan, it is typically most beneficial for individuals with significant estates that are likely to exceed the inheritance tax threshold.

The life insurance payout is usually calculated based on the estimated inheritance tax liability, which is 40% of the estate value above the nil-rate band (£325,000 as of 2024). The policy should provide enough to cover this tax.

Investments can include various financial products such as stocks, bonds, unit trusts, or investment funds. The choice depends on the individual’s risk tolerance and financial goals.

Risks include investment market volatility affecting the investment plan’s value, potential changes in tax laws, and the need to maintain premium payments for the life insurance policy.

Yes, elements of the plan can be adjusted, such as changing the investment strategy or updating the trust beneficiaries. However, changes to the life insurance policy may be subject to the insurer’s terms and conditions.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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